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Doctor Who Survived Cape Cod Shark Attack Gives Lecture on It 1 Year Later

Asked about how he feels about sharks now, William Lytton said, "I didn't like them before!"

What to Know

  • William Lytton, the New York man bitten by a shark off Cape Cod on Aug. 15, says he escaped by punching the predator in the gills
  • Lytton, a neurologist and SUNY professor, said he gave the animal a strong smack in the gills with his left hand after it clamped on his leg
  • "The pain was really excruciating," the 61-year-old Scarsdale resident says. He was put into a two-day coma and underwent six surgeries

Dr. Bill Lytton looked very comfortable giving a lecture at Tufts Medical Center Thursday, but it was just one year ago that he was a patient there, having survived a shark attack off Long Neck Beach in Truro, Massachusetts.

"I felt a severe pain in the left leg and, looking back, there was a shark stuck on my leg and it seemed to be trying to twist me and push me down," he recalled.

Lytton punched the shark's gill and managed to swim to shore before losing consciousness from blood loss.

People quickly came to help and Lytton was eventually flown from Cape Cod to Tufts for what would be nine surgeries over 11 days. Doctors even found a shark tooth in his leg in one effort to clean out the wound.

"He's just a testament to not only getting over the physical aspects but ... the cognitive and mental health aspect of such a devastating injury," said Dr. Eric Mahoney, a trauma surgeon at Tufts. "He looks great."

Almost fully recovered despite the major damage to his left leg, Lytton spoke at Tufts to give some perspective on what it's like to be a trauma patient. He also spoke to highlight the incredible work that has the 62-year-old living life again.

"As long as everything's going great, I'm resilient. If there had been a lot of setbacks it would have been much more difficult," he said.

Asked about how he feels about sharks now, Lytton said, "I didn't like them before!"

He'll get back in the ocean one day — when his wife says it's OK — but it won't be off the Outer Cape.

"Buzzards Bay still looks very safe, so that's where I'll be," he said.

And his advice for swimmers this summer? "Stay away from sharks!" he joked.

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